I am frequently asked how my husband is doing. That’s it, no other context, just, “How’s he doing?” I think the inquisitor assumes I know they’re really asking, “How’s he doing…in light of his father’s death and his mother’s recent diagnosis?” Their assumption is correct, I do know that’s the question they’re really asking.
My answer 99% of the time is, “He’s fine, thank you for asking.” It’s true, I do appreciate their asking, and it’s true that most of the time he is just that, fine. I truly believe most people ask this question because they care. I also believe they’re asking because perhaps there is an awkward silence, perhaps they want to say something sympathetic and they’re not sure how, or perhaps they want me to go into depth about my husband’s emotions. I can’t say I haven’t posed that same question to someone else going through similar circumstances. It’s natural to not know what to say and therefore use a vague but caring question to fill silence.
Here’s where my selfishness comes in though. Very, very few people ask this question: “How are you doing?” Maybe it’s too direct, maybe too uncomfortable, or maybe it’s assumed that I’m fine. I understand the assumption. The daughter-in-law is not often the first one you think about when you hear stories such as ours, and rightfully so.
However, in my experience, the daughter-in-law is the one who is absorbing her husband’s emotions who is absorbing his mother’s emotions, dealing with her own emotions while trying to remain strong, and ensuring her household is running business as usual. I don’t say any of this in a woe is me manner. Honestly, I say this as a reminder to myself to recognize in others’ situations those who are directly impacted but also overlooked. Because not being asked the vague, cliche “How are you?” question oftentimes causes to me to think I should be just fine. And that’s part of my own grief processing, there’s no one else to blame for that thought.
This is the flow that occurs in my mind: They’re not asking how I’m doing –> so therefore they must think I’m not affected and should be fine –> and therefore I should be fine –> so what in the world is wrong with me that I’m not?
Insert “Girl…you need therapy” thought here. And maybe I do, but I’m using this blog for therapy at the moment. We’ll see how it goes.
Also insert 7 day break here. I wrote the majority of this post 7 days ago but just couldn’t find the words to complete the post. I opened up in this post about some deep thoughts that occur fairly regularly in mind, so I felt like I needed to close on something profound or inspirational or life changing. And because I couldn’t find any of that in my mind I just let this sit.
These are thoughts I’ve had a for a while now, not just something I wrote last week. But it’s funny to me, because sometimes God’s just funny, that 4 days after I wrote these words here I had someone ask me the following three questions:
- How is your husband doing?
- How is your mother-in-law doing?
- How are you doing?
And not only did she ask those three questions, she followed up the third question with statements such as, “Know that we’re praying for you and support you. This is a lot on you as you support everyone.”
I mean I was blown away. And clearly it still took me 3 days to come back to this post, I think because I was just so touched and had to ponder on those words for a few days. They meant the world to me, and I told her that. The fact that someone would recognize my own need for prayer and support literally carried me through the rest of my week.
I may sound selfish to some with this post, and I get that. I don’t mean to be, and maybe at times I am, but aren’t we all selfish at some point?
I think I’ll close this post with a challenge. We all know someone going through something difficult and perhaps life altering – death in the family, illness, job loss, etc. Ask how they are doing. But don’t stop there. Consider others in their lives who are also affected by their situation, and if you know them, ask them how they’re doing too. Let them know you recognize their pain and struggle and you’re there to support them.
The grief process at times seems like tiny little steps you have to take in life in order to move on and process. Sometimes you go forward for a while, sometimes you’re stuck on one step, sometimes you may even go backward. But when someone recognizes your pain, tells you they support you and are praying for you, believe me, it’s like being carried on someone else’s wings many steps forward.
Good news, right?